Inclusion is More Than Just a Seat at the Table — It’s a Voice Too

Valerie serves as a Director of Executive Relationships and a Chair of FIRE Up, a diversity network within UKG that was created to cultivate an inclusive and supportive community of change through the power of growth, allyship, and networking to advance equity for all women, with a vision to create a global workplace where women are empowered, enabled and equal.

We often hear the common business jargon, “a seat at the table” as a career goal or destination. More recently, many boards and organizations are being confronted with the optics of their table and are keeping themselves accountable with diversity metrics that include requiring a certain percentage of an underrepresented group within their leadership population or adding new members to their board of directors to improve their diversity score. And although I would never be one to critique the effort for progress, I believe organizations who focus solely on the metric of diversity at the table are missing the true opportunity for diverse representation.

It’s more than a seat at the table, it’s a voice at the table. And it’s more than a voice at the table, it’s a unique voice that’s listened to, respected, and deemed valuable.

Is the rest of your organization’s culture prepared for more representation at the table? Is the diversity objective one of assimilation or belonging? The honest answers and action resulting from those questions is where we unlock the potential for lasting change and impact.

More than a metric

First, let’s unpack the jargon.

When we view employees with a positive people philosophy, we can assume that people who are a part of the organization want to utilize their knowledge, skills, and abilities to make an impact. When we say, “a seat at the table,” we mean a place where our voice is both represented and heard by others who have influence—the presence of both is crucial.

A recent study from McKinsey showed that while overall sentiment on diversity was 52% positive and 31% negative, feelings on inclusion were much worse, at only 29% positive and 61% negative. When it comes to diversity, if we only give someone a seat at the table but have failed to prepare the table as space where someone leaves that meeting knowing a dissenting perspective is welcome, their voice matters, and other seats are filled by members with a growth mindset for progress, then how valuable is that seat really?


What is happening now?

My role provides an opportunity for me to partner with hundreds of organizations, and it’s become clear that diversity is top of mind for every executive right now. This is no longer an HR-owned initiative, but rather an organizational-wide priority spanning across all members of the C-Suite. Executives want to know about the numbers, the trends, and the actions they can take to increase diversity. And when we share how our tools can support them in this goal, we emphasize that the technology is only to aid the evolution of the culture, not to be the solution alone.


We ask the questions, “Why is your organization focused on this diversity metric? What do you plan to do with this data?” The answers often reveal the “why” and journey ahead.


If the primary reason your organization is prioritizing diversity as a key initiative is due to social pressures, or even the data correlation between diversity and profitability, you’re missing a tremendous opportunity to humanize your workforce. What’s more important is the desire from those within your organization to understand the greater value that exists in investing in other humans and listening to the unique stories of people who are not like us.


Diversity metrics may lead to a shift in awareness and accountability; however, the key is that a cultural shift continues to take place throughout all people and all levels within the organization. Change and equity require more than a metric. What is needed is an assessment of cultural norms and behaviors. The rest of the business culture must shift alongside a growing table of decision-makers. It is not just that we have diversity alone, it is what we do with it and how do the benefits gained from a diverse group of people working together influence and impact change and progress. Is your organization assessing your recruiting processes, performance reviews, and mentoring programs to be more inclusive, widen the candidate pool, and foster belonging? How would you currently rate your company on how they prioritize learning and development, welcome new ideas and ways of thinking? How are the decisions made for the people the impact of the decisions? How is their voice regularly heard and represented?


What can we do about it?

Set the Table

If you currently consider yourself in a position where you can offer a seat at the table, I’d encourage you to challenge yourself and your team of peers to look around your table and assess by asking yourself these questions:


What stands out?

What can be called out and changed?

Where can you create opportunities for those who are not represented?

“Setting the table” simply means creating an environment where new voices will be welcomed and heard. And this level of inclusivity isn’t limited to meetings at the top of the organizational ladder—it’s vitally important for every table in every meeting. Even virtual meetings can benefit from inclusive practices.


Keep Learning

Fostering a learning culture toward diversity, inclusion and belonging requires that individuals draw on their own unique experiences, as members of groups they identify with, to share based on their unique gifts and perspectives. It has been reinforced this past year especially, that one of the most powerful ways to learn is to listen. What is the sentiment of your culture? What are your employees experiencing by being a part of your organization?


Stay Engaged

Join or create a community that harnesses the power of belonging in service to your people, your company, and the community at large. UKG offers its people the opportunity to engage in Diversity Networks, which are voluntary, employee-led groups whose aim is to foster a diverse, inclusive workplace aligned with our organization. When you bring passionate people together in the name of progress (and offer the bonus of full support from executive leadership), magic happens.


Your role within building a culture of belonging can be an active member, participant, executive sponsor, mentor, learner, or active ally. Regardless of how you opt to get involved, know you have a role to play.


As more seats are created for women at the table will they be welcomed to be authentic, challenge the current thinking, and share their unique perspective? Will a new voice be welcomed or silenced?


When you create environments, of mattering and engaged voices at every level, it will benefit the entire organization. You will not have to engage in campaigns to hire more diversity—diversity will come to you. I work at UKG because I know that our leaders and people are invested in getting to know, understand, and build up the whole person and that our leaders are continuously developed and expected to grow in our awareness of the responsibility we all have to foster a culture of belonging.


We cannot let the roaring call of equity fade to the background as merely a metric accomplished by filling more seats. Rather, we should focus on how each of us and our organizations is creating a more equitable table today and better preparing a table of belonging for people of current and future generations.


How To Help Employees Craft Their Dream Job At Your Organization

Think back to a time when you were doing your best work–when you were killing it and knew it. Can you recall what was motivating you? Chances are, it was something beyond a paycheck. Maybe you truly believed in the purpose of the project or were excited to try something completely new and push boundaries.

The difference is between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation is when you’re being driven to do something because of an external reward (a paycheck, approval, etc.). Intrinsic motivation is when you’re driven from the inside out–you want to do the task because you love it or believe in it. And while extrinsic motivation is important (most people won’t work without the promise of a paycheck), intrinsic motivation tends to produce the best results.

And for HR and people leaders who are tasked with getting the most out of their teams, learning how to tap into employees’ inner drivers can be a game-changer.

That’s where job crafting comes in.

Job crafting is the practice of redesigning the job you have to turn it into the job you want. It’s picking and choosing the parts of your job that resonate with you most deeply, and putting as much focus there as you can. Frequently used to combat burnout at work, it gives people a sense of control over how they spend their time and helps them reconnect with the why behind their jobs.

When people reconnect with their why, it’s a boon for them, and for the company. It drives productivity, energy, and engagement. And high employee engagement has been shown to reduce absenteeism by 41%, reduce turnover by 59%, and increase profitability by 21%.

Since job crafting is about tapping into intrinsic motivations, it’s not something a manager or HR department can do for their employees. But, they can encourage job crafting within their organizations. Here’s how.

Create a culture that encourages job crafting
The #1 thing a company can do to encourage employees to job craft is to create an authentic, purpose-driven company culture that rewards growth and personal development. This means infusing those values into the company’s DNA. From onboarding materials to performance reviews, encourage people to connect to a deeper purpose than the tasks on their to-do lists.

Ask questions about what people want out of their jobs. Provide stretch opportunities that get people out of their comfort zone and trying new things with different people. Managers can really step into their role as coaches during one-on-one conversations, helping people identify their strengths and passions and guiding them to tasks that best suit them.

Use data-driven assessments to identify strengths
In general, people aren’t always the best at objectively assessing their own abilities and strengths. Well-designed assessment tools, like Gallup CliftonStrengths and VIA Character Strengths, can help identify strengths backed by science. Using these types of tools in your organization, during reviews or not, makes it easier for you to see where your employees flourish and uncover potential opportunities for development.

Make it a team activity
Some organizations take things a step further and make job crafting a more formal team activity. This involves identifying the team’s unique, strategic contributions to the company and the strengths and aspirations of the team members, and then collectively distributing the tasks based on the insights gained.

Team job crafting alleviates at least one big concern leaders have about the job-crafting trend. While some managers worry that job crafting will leave them with a bucket of tasks no one wants to do, making it a team activity lays all the tasks on the table and invites the team to take ownership of the deliverables. Giving them agency, even over figuring out who is responsible for the most mundane tasks, improves engagement and collaboration within the group.

It also reinforces the company’s value of transparency growth as a whole.

Encouraging your team members to craft their jobs into their dream jobs is a win-win. Employees reconnect with what motivates them and feel a deeper sense of pride, ownership, and purpose in their work. And companies reap the benefits of heightened productivity, employee engagement, and loyalty.


How To Integrate Well-Being Into Work So Employees Perform And Feel Their Best

While executives have long recognized that well-being is important, the COVID-19 pandemic brought home how significant it really is. Organizations suddenly found themselves called upon to prioritize workers’ physical and mental well-being as a matter of survival, as protecting their health and alleviating their stress became critical to operations. Work and life, health, safety, and well-being became inseparable.

Even before COVID-19, though, well-being was rising on the organizational agenda. In fact, well-being was the top-ranked trend in Deloitte’s 2020 Global Human Capital Trends study, with 80% of nearly 9,000 survey respondents identifying it as important or very important to their organization’s success.

Shifting realities: COVID crisis casts a new light on the importance of well-being

Against that backdrop, when COVID-19 took hold, the crisis cast new light on the importance of well-being and made us acutely aware of the consequences when well-being is put at risk. Many organizations took quick action to redirect resources toward making work safe and keeping workers healthy, for example by moving workers into remote work arrangements, implementing testing and contact tracing strategies for on-site workers, and establishing new programs for emergency medical leave, childcare, and eldercare support, and physical, mental, and financial health.

As the pandemic went on, well-being remained paramount in many organizational leaders’ minds. Conversations about the toll of social isolation and economic recession on workers’ mental and emotional health entered the public dialogue and keeping workers physically healthy and safe continued to be a top priority.

Workers prioritize transforming work for well-being more highly than executives

Even so, there is a continuing disconnect between employers and workers when it comes to prioritizing well-being. When asked, “What are the most important outcomes you hope to achieve in your workplace transformation efforts in the next one to three years?” respondents cited improving quality, increasing innovation, and improving worker well-being. But improving well-being was the second-to-last outcome identified by executives.

HR executives were slightly more deliberate than non-HR executives about focusing on well-being as an important outcome, with 20% of HR executives selecting it as a priority, compared with 15% of non-HR executives. But designing well-being into work cannot be done by HR alone. The incorporation of well-being into work must be done symphonically, championed by leaders at every level and in every function if it is to make a meaningful difference.

Organizations can take a variety of actions to integrate well-being into work

Organizations looking to build well-being into work should consider actions, policies, and mandates at three levels – individual, team, and organizational. And they should take into account five environments in which they’re designing work, including, cultural, relational, operational, physical, and virtual. For example, here are a few actions leaders can take:

At the organizational level:

Form teams based on worker preferences, working styles, and personal needs
Embed well-being criteria in work scheduling, performance management processes, leadership evaluations, and rewards and recognition programs
Design work environments to support workers’ physical, mental, and emotional health needs
At the team level:

Model well-being behaviors such as taking micro-breaks or making only certain meetings video-based
Enable team agency and choice by allowing teams to adopt well-being practices best suited to their needs
Leverage physical workspaces that promote team collaboration and performance
Use new technologies, like virtual reality, to train team members to navigate stressful situations (e.g., interacting with a frustrated customer)
At the individual level, people should also take ownership over their well-being by being proactive and vocal about their well-being needs, checking in more frequently with colleagues and leveraging wearable technologies and apps to help master distractions, increase mindfulness and reduce anxiety.

The design of well-being into work is a practice that must be developed, strengthened, and flexed over time to be effective. As work itself changes at a rapid pace, the ways that an organization supports individual and team well-being must adapt in tandem. It’s no longer about achieving a work-life balance. The pandemic has shown us that well-being is not about balancing work with life but integrating them. When an organization is able to successfully design well-being into work, well-being becomes indistinguishable from work itself, embedded across all organizational levels and environments to drive and sustain not only human performance but also human potential.


Hot Dogs And Employee Experience? Yes, There Is A Connection!

I recently read described how Costco hasn’t changed the price of its $1.50 hot dog and soda deal in more than 35 years. Costco’s CEO believes that people would pay $1.75 (or more) for it, but he doubts that earning an extra 25 cents per meal would benefit Costco more than the goodwill and foot traffic generated by a reliable snack that’s stuck to its price point for more than three decades.

“Customers coming in to shop at Costco are amused, satisfied, and fueled by the hot dog meal,” the article says. “If they get it just before leaving the store, they’re left with a lasting impression of being treated well. That’s worth more than keeping up with inflation.”

For most people, the takeaway would have been, “That’s a great philosophy when it comes to customer experience.” But for me, the takeaway was, “What if other leaders and organizations used this approach when thinking about their employee experience?”
The Employee Experience Can Make or Break a Business
During my career, I’ve worked for some great companies. I’ve also worked for some not-so-great companies. The standouts were the ones that focused heavily on the experience their people had. Many factors influence the employee experience: access to development opportunities, mentoring, ability to build trust, and how leaders engage with their employees.

Employee experience encompasses an organization’s culture, its physical space, and technology practices. For me, the culture of the organization plays the biggest role in my employee experience, but if you’re working in a sh!%$# physical space with faulty technology, that will have a huge impact. I’ve been lucky enough to have worked in some pleasant environments (although one had an overabundance of “corporate blue.” Can you say, “Too much of a good thing”?).

When all these elements are thoughtfully architected and supported by leaders, organizations should have a plethora of happy, high-performing employees.

Back to the Costco hot dog. If your employees end their workday with the same sense of satisfaction as a Costco shopper leaving the store with their affordable, tasty hot dog, then you’re doing things right. Your people feel they’re being treated well, which means you recognize and value the employee experience you’re delivering to your people.

But if you’re not thinking about the culture, leadership practices, or overall offerings your organization brings to your people that contribute to their employee experience, then you’re likely dealing with many challenges that you probably can’t handle. This is especially true during a worldwide pandemic.
How to Create Your Own Hot Dog Combo: Three Tips to Help Your Business
If you know your organization’s employee experience is struggling, here are three tips to give your people the same feeling they get when they score the $1.50 hot dog deal.
1. Value People Above Profit
A business usually exists to make money – money for its leaders, owners, and investors, and for its people to earn a living. But without your people, your business can’t exist. I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. But the more your people understand that you value them and the work they do (no matter what their role is in your organization), the better the top line and bottom line will look for everyone.

This means that leaders need to continually demonstrate that people are the heart, lungs, brains, and nervous system of the business. Creating this type of environment doesn’t have to be difficult. It also doesn’t have to entail a full overhaul of your culture. It begins with respect and honesty. It requires transparency and authenticity, and leaders who engage everyone in the big and small details and create a platform for people to share ideas and concerns.

Giving people a voice and a way to share their thoughts, questions, and points of view can help them feel like they’re a vital part of the business. It can’t just be lip service, though. A recent employee experience survey from Qualtrics found that 92% of employees believe it’s important that their company listen to feedback, but only 7% say their company acts on feedback really well.

Improving the way an organization shows it values its people isn’t hard. Start by acknowledging the insights or feedback employees share. You’ll prove that you value their opinions and recognize that they’re making contributions (no matter how small). This will leave them with a wonderful feeling (just like that hot dog) that influences their future behavior.
2. Purposely Focus on Purpose
While the data has been around for years, leaders are finally taking this information to heart and acknowledging that being purpose-focused is a revenue driver and difference-maker for organizations. You’ve likely seen some of these statistics:

Companies that lead with purpose are 202% more likely to be profitable (Source: Keller, V. The Business Case for Purpose. Harvard Business Review, 2015)
Purpose-driven companies with humanistic values outperformed the S&P 500 by 14 times over 15 years (Source: Sisodia, R., Jag Sheth, and David B. Wolfe, Firms of Endearment, 2007)

Having a clear purpose – your organization’s impact on people or the world at large and what makes your organization uniquely you – does more than just provide strategic guidance. Your organization’s purpose speaks to the head and the heart – it makes work meaningful for your people. Meaningful work motivates, inspires, and engages your people. It helps create that feeling of accomplishment that everyone desires: “I delivered an important piece of what makes this organization successful. I did great work today. I made a difference in someone’s life.”

The purpose element is a cornerstone of your employee’s experience. If your leaders and your people strongly believe in what your business does and how it impacts the world, it goes a long way in leaving a positive lasting impression – just like a hot dog and soda for $1.50.
3. Employee Experience Isn’t Just an HR “Problem”
Creating the employee experience is everyone’s job – not just HR’s. Yes, the HR leaders play a key role in organizational communication, company benefits, and programs for talent and skill development, but it’s up to leaders and managers outside this department to foster, support, and deliver these messages directly to their teams. Managers are the ones who need to ensure that everyone is “walking the walk” of critical behaviors, following policies, ensuring work-life balance, listening to their teams, and relaying feedback to the appropriate leaders.

Every leader can provide a positive, lasting impression that makes your people excited to come to work every day. It starts at the top, but it needs to be emphasized that everyone plays a role in the employee experience.
Leaders Must Keep Employee Experience Top of Mind – Always
Whether your organization is like the many others that have experienced a rough patch or you’re lucky enough to be enjoying your best performance ever, employee experience must be a mainstay through every peak and valley. It can get your people through difficult times by keeping them engaged, feeling like they belong, and tethering them to your business instead of jumping ship. Employee experience can also carry your organization to even greater heights.


Organizational Awareness: Are You Able to Read the Signs?

The first step to start leading others is social awareness, which is the person’s ability to consider the perspectives of other individuals, groups or communities, and apply that understanding in their interactions. It is composed of empathy, organizational awareness, and service orientation.

Organizational awareness, “social flow”, “social awareness” or even “political awareness”, is an emotional skill that individuals have, but some more than others. It is the ability to read the signs, be aware of what is not clearly said, and understand the unwritten rules of their workplace. In addition, it is also a critical capability of any organization, a form of consciousness that the organization develops while adapting to the business strategy.

Reading the Room
Having this type of social awareness skill typically helps people to read situations factually, despite their own biases, emotions, or assumptions. Competence in social awareness builds on both emotional intelligence skills (self-control and empathy), which will help you see clearly and from multiple viewpoints.

The ability to read the signs is vital to the behind-the-scenes networking and to map and classify internal stakeholders based on trust and agreement. The most common classification is Bedfellows, Adversaries, Opponents, Allies, and Fence sitters.

If you manage to identify your allies (high trust, high agreement) and opponents (high trust, low agreement) you will be able to wield influence in any professional role or setting in the organization.

Social awareness is to understand the perspectives of and empathize with others, including those from diverse ethnicities, gender, backgrounds, cultures, & contexts. This includes the capacity to feel compassion for others and understand historical and social norms for behavior in different settings. A few examples of how to develop social awareness:

Listen to and consider others ‘perspectives
Recognize strengths and value in people
Express gratitude to others
Identify diverse social norms, including unfair ones
Recognize situational demands, opportunities, and threats.
Navigating Workplace Politics
Throughout the years, due to technological growth, we have seen organizations reinventing themselves to become more agile, networked, and less bureaucratic. However, despite all these changes, organizations are still political structures.

This means that companies operate by distributing authority and setting a stage for the exercise of power. These political structures also provide opportunities for people to develop their careers and grow within the organization.

The development of careers, particularly at high managerial levels, depends on accumulation of the power as the vehicle for transforming individual interests into activities that influence other people. Therefore, learning how to navigate into office politics and build influence is a key success factor and it is directly linked to your emotional intelligence.

To successfully navigate office politics, you need to accurately read key power relationships and detect vital social networks. Also, political awareness helps you to understand the forces that shape the views and actions of stakeholders like clients, customers, or competitors and precisely read the organizational and the external environment.

Simon Baddeley and Kim James (1987) developed a useful model for political skills, using two abilities and two dimensions: ‘Reading’, to understand the world around them and ‘Carrying’, to understand their internal world. They suggested a scale from ‘acting with integrity to ‘playing psychological games’, creating four possible ‘states’: Clever, Innocent, Wise, and Inept, each of which can be described in terms of an animal (see Figure).

The “Wise behavior” can be summed up broadly as creating ‘win-win’ situations out of difficult political moments. To develop this behavior you need to bring together awareness and integrity.

Building Decision Networks
The internet has transformed the way people and companies communicate. In the last few decades, companies have developed an online presence, not only to work with their employer brands but also to be closer to their employees.

When it comes to relationships and networking, professionals have several networking platforms to make contacts, share experiences, identify professional and development opportunities. Nonetheless, many people still associate the term networking, with cheesy events and the idea of ‘selling ‘themselves.

However, despite its off-putting connotations, active professional networking is vital to career growth. Networking is about building long-term relationships as well as a good reputation over time within the individual’s organization and in the market. It involves getting to know people who you can assist, and who can potentially help you in the future.

Successful leaders demonstrate integrity, people acumen, assertiveness, and are great communicators. They understand the importance of decision networks and they have developed excellent networking skills. They know how to collaborate, work with stakeholders and obtain valuable information, achieving a measurable return on their time.

The good news is that you can improve your networking skills over time through emotional intelligence: “communication with self” (self-awareness) and “communication with others” (social awareness). It will only require dedication, discipline, and practice from you.

Most of us recognize the importance of self-awareness and I hope after reading this article you can also acknowledge the impact of social awareness in our lives.


Why culture is critical in the post-COVID world

Post-COVID, your company culture will make the difference between surviving and thriving. So now really is the time to look at it in depth.

It’s now something of a cliché to say that coronavirus has changed everything. But like all clichés, it has a core of truth. It’s not just changed where we work and how we work, but fundamentally altered how we look at the world and, for many of us, challenged us to re-assess what really matters in life.

As we gradually return to the office or to hybrid ways of working; shops, restaurants, bars, and cafes re-open and as we look forward to the possibility of booking a late Summer get away, we are all moving forward, even if only a few small steps at a time. The world has changed, but how many businesses have really accepted that fact and taken this opportunity to look again at the impact this has had on their goals and objectives? Because if everything has changed, then that means that what was once your reason for being in business has changed too. We’re never going back to the way things were. So now is the time to ask the essential question: just where do we go from here?

That’s why this is the right time to not just re-examine your culture but to radically revisit and revitalize it. The challenges all businesses face are significant. For some, such as retail and hospitality companies, those challenges are clearly greater than for others. But for all of us, the shake-up that coronavirus has imposed upon us means that the sooner we get down to digging deep into our values the better.

It’s not just about the workplace, either. If you continue to view your employees as merely self-interested ‘contractual’ agents, just coming into the office to get the most they can from the minimum of effort, then that attitude can only make things worse as this radically different future unfolds. Not least because it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

This view has to be challenged and eradicated. Without motivated employees, you’ll never thrive as a business. That has always been the case. Coronavirus has just thrust to the forefront something many were happy to ignore when times were good. So if that has all changed, the question now is: what do you have to do to create an aspirational culture in this Brave New World which has everyone fired up and really ready to go those extra miles to build back a better business?

This isn’t easy. That’s the first thing to take on board. It takes time – and commitment from everyone at the top table – from CEO to HRD to really re-discover what ignites your business. It needs you to really go back to first principles, to be honest, to truly challenge yourselves.

So you need to be free of other distractions, for one thing. The fact that this takes time and extra effort is the reason you need to act now, not when everything is up and running again. By then it will be too late. The world, which has already changed, will have moved on. The best of your competitors will have moved on with it. There is no set date for when we’ll be magically ‘released’ from COVID, so you cannot sit about either waiting for the new normal to happen or blindly expecting that things will somehow carry on as they used to. That way leads to stagnation at best.

So, you think, let’s get in an employee branding agency and see what they can come up with. What we need is a good-looking attraction campaign, setting out what makes us different, and reasserting our core values so we can feel the talent and get moving again. But without addressing the fundamentals, these campaigns will be mere window dressing, a papering over of the cracks. But many of those cracks post-COVID will threaten to go deeper than any campaign can address.

Fail to address that and not only will the talent soon see through your campaigns, your existing talent will see through them, too. That’s why agencies need to play their role in ensuring their clients dig deeper, go further, and really address the issues that matter to them in this totally new environment. It’s about reigniting the fire in the belly. That takes more than a few clever posters for the breakout room.

Sooner rather than later businesses need to face up to the new challenges that the post-COVID world has placed before us. Putting this off to a later date is not a real choice. Re-discovering your culture, re-evaluating and re-vitalizing that culture for this new world, takes time and deep effort. It can’t be done just as an agenda item for a board meeting.

Those who do dig deep will find the rewards more than justify the effort. Because if you can find that aspirational purpose that gives sense and meaning to the culture, which inspires employees to try new ways of doing things, to get creative, and think outside the box, they’ll surprise themselves and you. Your employees will be full of energy and commitment and performance will rocket, whatever issues you may face, whatever challenges are thrown at you in the future.

So I hear you ask: that’s all very well, but just where do I start? It’s a great idea, but what exactly should I do next? Well, start by downloading our whitepaper. And do it right now. The sooner you get going the sooner you’ll unlock the true potential of your employees and create a dazzlingly bright future for your business. COVID has changed everything, so you must change too.


Women, Work, And Stopping The Zoom Madness

One in Four. This statistic has been top of mind for me ever since reading the 2020 Lean In Women in the Workplace report. This shocking study revealed that one in four women are actively considering downshifting their careers or leaving the workplace due to the Covid-19 crisis. With a disproportionate amount of child and elder care responsibilities falling on the shoulders of women, many are reaching their breaking points and contemplating a dramatic career change. We find ourselves on the cusp of a massive attrition volcano on the brink of eruption that would set the gender balance in the boardroom back 20+ years, one that senior leaders and HR departments across North America should be making a top priority to tackle right now. So what’s the plan?

Many companies are responding by introducing flex hours to accommodate employees who may be homeschooling children or caring for elderly or sick relatives. Some organizations are taking it a step further but allowing for job share arrangements or temporary (typically unpaid) leaves of absence. While these measures are helpful in the short term, it would be foolish to believe these things alone will prevent the mass attrition of women. Why? While well-intended, these measures do not remove any actual work. Employees end up working longer hours to focus on the same deliverables as before the pandemic. Or worse, the surge of incremental internal meetings, reviews, and deliverables since the beginning of Covid-19 has added more to everyone’s palate, aggravating the already heightened stress and anxiety employees are experiencing.

In the spirit of never wasting a crisis, companies should use this opportunity to systematically review where their people are spending their time and energy and the corresponding 1) business value 2) employee satisfaction associated with those activities. Organizations should ask: what percentage of the time are our people preparing for, attending, or following-up from low-value meetings and deliverables with little measurable business impact? How many hours per week are our employees spending in meetings where they are not active contributors or decision-makers? How much time are people spending preparing deliverables that go unread by the majority of the recipients? The answer to these questions might shock employers. And yet, these seemingly innocuous activities are contributing the most to employee anxiety, job dissatisfaction, and looming resignation letters.

Like birthday cupcakes left in the lunchroom, it’s simply a matter of time before any open spot in an employee’s outlook calendar gets devoured in 2021. How can companies reverse the current trajectory of internal meeting overload? For every new meeting that gets added to the calendar, what if one has to be removed? Consider a rule that only key decision-makers in a particular meeting are the ones who are invited to attend. And before hitting send on an Outlook invitation, employees must confirm that the meeting is not something that could in fact have been an email.

What would those changes look like within your organization? With less internal meeting time and low-value deliverables on everyone’s agenda, employees can spend more time on higher-impact, more productive, and meaningful activities. The type of work that not only improves the company bottom line but also improves job satisfaction, making it less likely for employees to consider leaving.

Will this approach prevent the predicted mass exodus of women? We’ll have no way of knowing unless employers take immediate steps to find out. What is certain is that if companies don’t dramatically change their approach to retaining talent during Covid-19, we will reverse decades of gender balance progress virtually overnight.


How To Confront Injustice In The Workplace, According To Best-Selling Author Kim Scott

Take a moment to consider these facts:

One in four black workers reports discrimination at work, according to Gallup.
Less than 5% of CEOs at S&P 500 companies are women
Nearly 20% of the American workforce experiences bullying
These startling statistics underscore the racial, social, and gender disparities in our modern workplaces. And over the past year, such injustices have been further highlighted by national events and tragedies.

Kim Scott, the author of the New York Times bestseller Radical Candor, experienced this moment as an opportunity to transform our communication, careers, and organizations.

Scott was a CEO coach at Dropbox, Qualtrics, Twitter, and other major tech companies. She was a member of the faculty at Apple University and before that led AdSense, YouTube, and DoubleClick teams at Google.

Her first book, Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity, revolutionized the way organizations give feedback. She brought empathy, awareness, and compassion to a taboo and fearful topic for managers, leaders, and direct reports alike.

Now she is back with a new book Just Work: Get Sh*t Done Fast and Fair, which shows how we can recognize, attack, and eliminate workplace injustices to both respects everyone’s individuality and collaborate effectively.


Melody Wilding: What inspired you to write Just Work as a follow-up to Radical Candor?

Kim Scott: When you write a book about feedback, you’re going to get a lot of feedback. And I did. In fact, there was one thing in particular that people told me that really resonated, which is that it’s so much easier for overrepresented people to be radically candid than for underrepresented people.

For example, I was giving a Radical Candor workshop at a tech company in San Francisco. The CEO of that company was a former colleague of mine and one of two black women CEOs in tech. At the end of the workshop, she pulled me aside and said she loved the idea of radical candor and thought it would help her build the kind of culture she wanted. But then she pointed out that even when she would give the kindest, gentlest criticism, she would get slammed with the “angry black woman” stereotype. She also pointed out that she bets it’s a lot harder for me than it is for my husband, who’s a white engineer in Silicon Valley, and I knew this was true.

A few things struck me about this. First of all, I had known this woman for the better part of a decade and I realized suddenly that I had never seen her seem even the slightest bit annoyed even when she had plenty to be annoyed about. It had never really occurred to me the toll that must have taken on her to be endlessly cheerful, to not be allowed to be human with a full range of emotions. It made me realize that I had not been the kind of colleague that I wanted to be. I had been in denial about the kinds of things that were happening. Not only was I denying her reality, I was denying my own reality. So it really made me think, how can we create a better work environment so that we can all just work? That’s what most of us want to do, we want to do great work, and our bosses want us to do great work. Yet, something is getting in the way. I realized, I hadn’t really come to grips with what that something was in Radical Candor, thus, Just Work was born.

Wilding: Can you explain what the term “Just Work” means to you?

Scott: Just work happens when we organize and optimize for collaboration rather than coercion. After all, nobody really wants to be coerced at work, even most leaders don’t want to be coercive leaders. You want to optimize for collaboration while at the same time you want to optimize for respecting everyone’s individuality rather than demanding conformity. I think it’s sort of intuitive that we’re not going to innovate when we’re demanding conformity, yet, very often we do just that.

So what I tried to do in the book Just Work is to explain what moves us in the wrong direction in these two dimensions, what causes us to demand conformity, even when we were not really intending to, and what causes us to create coercive work environments, when what we really need is collaboration. The answer to that is largely workplace injustice. But we need to know how to break this down into its component parts so that we can figure out how to confront each one.

Wilding: In the book, you talk about types of workplace injustices. Can you tell us about each?

Scott: For me, I wanted to believe it was always about unconscious bias, that nobody ever really meant it. But sometimes you’re confronting an actual prejudice. Sometimes what you’re confronting is bullying. So to me, the root causes of workplace injustice are those three distinct attitudes and behaviors: bias, prejudice, and bullying. Each one demands a different confrontation.

If we’re going to figure out the most effective way to respond, if we’re going to prevent this from happening over and over, then there are three other things that happen when you layer power on top of bias, prejudice, and bullying. Bias and prejudice, plus power, yield discrimination. Bullying plus power yields harassment. Then sometimes there are physical violations, they usually happen because of a power imbalance, either physical or positional, those are physical violations.

In short, the six different attitudes and behaviors that combine to create workplace injustice are bias, prejudice, bullying, discrimination, harassment, and physical violations. And it’s really important to disentangle these things.

Wilding: How has our current situation with remote working and the pandemic shaped how these injustices show up? What can we do to deal with them?

Scott: The big thing that is on my mind is what happens when working parents have young kids at home. It’s much harder to get things done. What are we doing as leaders and as individuals to make sure that we are accommodating for people’s new realities?

Two things I recommend are when you’re in a Zoom meeting, you want to make sure that you’re asking people in the first couple of minutes what’s going on for everybody, how’s everybody doing, and give people a few minutes to talk about what’s going on for them. This may feel inefficient, but it’s actually not. Not only does it help you build better relationships with folks, it actually helps you be more efficient.

Somebody might be frustrated because they have a toddler in the next room about to explode, however, everybody else in the meeting thinks that that person’s mad at them or at the meeting. Encouraging people to not hide what’s going on at home, but to talk about it and to support each other is important.

I also think that one of the problems with Zoom is, is that you’re more likely to deal with unconscious bias over Zoom because the texture of real-life bonding is largely gone. You want to make sure to create opportunities, to really talk about what they’re interested in, what they care about, so that you can find those shared areas of interest and really notice each other’s full humanity.

Wilding: What are some actionable ways leaders and managers can make their workplaces more equitable?

Scott: In the case of bias, the thing that I recommend is bias interrupters. Trying to retrain unconscious bias by itself, it’s not going to change things. In fact, it can even be counterproductive because it can leave people with the impression there’s nothing they can do about it.

So what I recommend leaders do is create a phrase with their team. Get the team to come up with the words. Don’t impose words on your team, but have them come up with what you are going to say or do in a meeting when you observe bias, either a bias action or bias language.

The important thing about this language is that it’s something that everyone uses and you don’t want to put all the burden for responding to bias on the people who are harmed by it. Some teams like to throw a purple flag, they actually have props. Then the person, the person who just said the biased thing knows they’ve said something biased. A big part of this is just coming up with a shared vocabulary, but the second part is really important.

You need to make this response a norm, just make it a completely normal feeling process. This is important because when someone points out your bias to you, or at least when someone points out my bias to me, my first response is to feel ashamed or defensive. However when you create a norm of how to respond, basically it simplifies things into two options. You can acknowledge it, thank them, and say you won’t do it again. Or, if you don’t understand, it’s perfectly legitimate to say, “I don’t quite get it. Can we talk after the meeting?” Then the meeting goes on. The idea of the bias interrupters is that this should be happening in every single meeting that you have, but it should only take a second. Once you build stamina for these biased interrupters, they can happen they’ll help everyone to feel comfortable calling them out and still keep things moving in a productive manner.

With prejudice, leaders have to establish a code of conduct because they cannot control what people think. People can think whatever they want, however, it’s not okay in the workplace to just do or say anything you think. You can’t do or say things that destroy the team’s ability to collaborate. This is hard, it’s hard to write a code of conduct, but it’s really worth doing. I gave an example in the book of one because it’s tricky as a leader to establish where that line is, between people can believe whatever they want but they cannot do whatever they want. They can’t impose their beliefs on others, this is why we have HR rules and regulations. This is why we have laws as well, so that people know where the boundaries are.

Last but not least there’s bullying. It is so important for leaders to create real consequences for bullying. Bullying will continue to happen unless leaders create consequences. Make sure that you learn as a leader how to interrupt bullying in a meeting, how to create conversational consequences. You also want to create compensation consequences for bullying. You don’t want to give people a big bonus for achieving results at the cost of leaving a trail of half harmed people in their wake.

Bullying behavior should have consequences on people’s careers. You don’t want to promote the brilliant jerks, it can be tempting to do that, but one of your jobs as a leader is to create a performance review process. That includes not only your results as an individual but your results as a team member. This is part of optimizing for collaboration rather than coercion.

Wilding: Any other advice you’d like to share?

Scott: I would like to share a little bit about how to respond when we are the person being harmed by bias, prejudice, or bullying.

We’ll start with what you can say when you don’t know what to say. Let’s say something has come up and you think its bias, the best way to respond to bias is with an I statement. An I statement invites someone to understand things from your perspective. For example, “I don’t think you meant that the way it sounded” or “I don’t think I can work here when you’re calling me pretty girl, because I don’t think you’ll ever take me seriously”. Usually an I statement sort of has the impact of holding up a mirror for the other person, they’ll usually apologize. Sometimes they’re going to be defensive, however, they’ll usually self-correct if it’s biased.

When it’s a prejudice that you’re confronting, you want to respond with its statement. It statement either appeals to the law or appeals to your company policy. It’s an HR violation or it appeals to common sense.

How do you respond to bullying? You don’t want to use an I statement, you don’t want to draw the person in. You want to push the other person away and you want to make sure that you’re not in a submissive role. It was actually my daughter who explained this to me, she was getting bullied at school. I was kind of encouraging her to say to this kid when you do this, it makes me feel that. She looked at me and said, “Mom, he is trying to make me feel sad, telling him he succeeded as like giving him a cookie.” Wisdom from one-third grader that we can apply in the workplace. When someone is really trying to bully you, you want to say, “You can’t talk to me like that.” Or if it feels like that might escalate the situation, you could try something more gentle like, “what’s going on for you here” or even “where’d you get that tie?” You just want the other person answering the questions, don’t answer the question for them.


The challenges of onboarding in remote or hybrid workforces

Companies that have been able to recruit throughout the pandemic have faced significant challenges in onboarding new employees. The difficulties that have surfaced during this period raise important questions about how organizations onboard new talent and maintain internal culture when a large part of the workforce is working remotely.

How, for instance, will recruits fit in with their new team when it could be weeks or months before they meet them?

These are worthwhile questions because when post-pandemic recovery comes, remote working will continue in many organizations. Gartner’s research predicts 48% of employees will work remotely some of the time once the pandemic has ended. Karin Kimbrough, Chief Economist at LinkedIn told the BBC that the volume of job searches using the ‘Remote’ filter had increased by 60% from the end of last March.

Onboarding is more difficult when an organization’s workforce is working remotely for all or part of the time. A sense of not-fitting-in can quickly develop when interactions are solely online and the new employee feels as if they have been left to flounder without proper induction training or personal introductions. More experienced recruits will start to question whether they have made the right move.

It is also much easier for new recruits to resign when no feelings of loyalty or personal warmth have developed an organizational culture appears poor or remote

College-leavers and first-time entrants to the job market may also feel alienated and will need special attention to make them feel valued so companies do not hemorrhage the best young talent. In the legal sector, for example, trainee lawyers have always been able to learn in the office from senior colleagues, asking them quick questions and observing how they handle cases and clients.

The pandemic has restricted the access of young lawyers to this wealth of expertise and experience, resulting in many struggling to work from home. This will be true for many other professions as well.

It is also much easier for new recruits to resign when no feelings of loyalty or personal warmth have developed an organizational culture that appears poor or remote. This is where more active policies to include and engage with newly-appointed employees reduce the likelihood of early departure and avoid the disruption and extra costs of refilling a vacancy.

To a large extent, however, the rethinking of onboarding for remote workforces is already underway inside organizations that have embraced more advanced, cloud-based HR platforms.

What HR technology has brought are vastly better and simpler communication, more effective training programs, and reinvigorated employee support. In a remote or hybrid workforce, organizations with the right technology are more systematic about onboarding, but with no loss of personality.

HR departments can create checklists and workflows that streamline the onboarding process, ensuring no aspect is overlooked. Self-service will give the new employee a greater sense of autonomy even before they formally begin, enabling them to input their own details and access videos and training materials.

Younger employees, especially, are more attracted to video content. The overall effect is to iron out admin irritations that can alienate a new recruit sitting at home or in a sparsely-occupied workplace.

A platform that offers social media-type functionality makes it very easy for a recruit to see what is happening across the organisation both professionally and socially and to feel part of the culture. It facilitates introductions to managers and colleagues so that a new person is familiar with the ethos of the organisation before they start.

To make recruits feel truly comfortable and get up to speed with what the company requires of them, it should also be simple to schedule regular informal face-to-face interactions or check-ins with managers to discuss progress, personal goals and any concerns.

This is a straightforward and intuitive form of interaction, which HR platforms enable. Similarly, new employees should be able to join discussions with fellow team members quickly and easily, enjoying a sense of inclusion even though they may be at home and have yet to meet them in person.

Regular contact with managers and teams on a platform that is simple to use and full of relevant features embeds recruits far more quickly, substantially reducing the chances of them throwing in the towel early on.

Being able to access training modules, company guides, and updates within the same HR platform is also a major advantage for a new hire who might otherwise struggle to locate the right content in a company’s system. This removes the necessity to leave the platform to find what they need, including records of how they are progressing.

HR departments and line managers will undoubtedly face all kinds of onboarding challenges as the UK economy emerges from the pandemic and remote working continues. It will be organizations with access to more advanced platforms that make the greatest success of this new pattern of work, rapidly onboarding the ablest recruits, increasing retention, and maximizing organizational efficiency.

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Purpose At Work: Forum For The Future CEO Sally Uren Talks Transformation

Collaborative leadership is essential to cultivating an abundant and flourishing world. Organizations that build community and cultural conversations around a higher purpose are rewarded with goodwill and loyalty. Forum For The Future is setting a prime example of how to bring partners from the business, government, and nonprofit sectors together to create a meaningful shift towards a sustainable future.

“We bring brands together to focus on shared challenges,” Sally Uren, CEO of Forum For The Future, tells We First. “Competition law hasn’t caught up with the need for pre-competitive collaboration.” Issues like climate change, the novel coronavirus, and poverty eradication need an all-hands-on-deck approach. Uren’s experience and collaborative approach offer valuable lessons to impact-driven pioneers looking to Lead With Us.


Since her school days, Sally has had a calling towards sustainability. She studied biology at the University of Manchester and completed a Ph.D. researching the effects of air pollution on semi-natural ecosystems.

“I did a postdoctoral fellowship in the rainforest of Borneo. That cemented in me an understanding that we can reverse environmental damages,” Uren shares. ”I wanted to apply everything I’d learned through my research.”

At the onset of her career, Uren worked as an air quality and sustainability consultant for large infrastructure projects in the U.K. She found resistance when she would say things like, “I’m not sure that’s going to create the change that we need to see.” Although she received prison threats and heavy disdain, Sally didn’t stop. “The closer you get to shifting a system, the harder it pushes back at you.” She eventually joined the nonprofit sector, where she felt she could be more candid and have a larger impact.

As CEO of Forum For The Future, Uren works to “sketch out what a positive future is that allows people and the planet to thrive,” she says. “We then encourage business philanthropy, government, civil society, and whoever will listen to create the future we want. Our work is to equip people to drive big change and to go with them on that journey.”

What’s at stake?

We’ve been hearing it for years, if we don’t drastically decarbonize the global economy, humanity is headed for irreversible climate change. Despite an increased basic understanding of the problem, “we have failed to deal with structural inequalities,” Uren says. “So, you’ve got a profound environmental challenge and a profound societal challenge coming to bear at the same time.” The good news is that if we work together to take action, our future doesn’t have to end in peril.

To showcase potential outcomes, Forum For The Future recently released The Future Of Sustainability report. The study outlines four potential trajectories for what the future might look like, depending on how we act as a global society over the next several years.

The first scenario is called Unsettled. In this scenario humanity bounces from one crisis to another, forced to continuously adapt and respond to uncertain challenges. “The institutions we’ve established to manage through the 21st century don’t work in that level of discontinuity and uncertainty,” Sally says. “Brands that can be flexible, adaptive, and highly creative may be able to do well but they will be the minority. In that trajectory, we stand no chance of solving climate change or dealing with structural inequality.”

Fortunately, that is the darkest trajectory. The next scenario is titled Discipline. In this pathway, efficiency, government oversight, and corporate control dominate reality. There’s little regard for privacy. Society is run by a command and control approach to confronting issues like Covid-19. The economy can recover to pre-pandemic status but it is largely focused on financial performance. “Features of sustainability, like the circular economy, do really well because they are super-efficient,” Uren explains. “We see rapid automation of global supply chains without a thought to social equity or social justice. Technology drives growth and democracy is not a priority.

While safe, the Discipline scenario limits freedom and individuality. The subsequent trajectory, known as Lively, is based on the “compete and retreat” mentality. Populist dynamics reign and every nation is for itself. “This mimics what we are seeing with the U.S. pulling out to the World Health Organization and India limiting the export of paracetamol to keep the stocks for their own population,” Uren says. “In this trajectory, international attempts to deal with climate or looking out for the poorest people don’t work. The mindset is, ‘My citizens and my nation come first.’”

None of these paths are optimal; however, if we take a collective approach to addressing economic, environmental, and equitable well-being, there’s a chance that we can manifest a sustainable and abundant future.

Forum For The Future’s Transform trajectory is driven by the idea that “planetary health equals human health, which equals economic health,” Sally says. “We’ve seen this in Covid-19. If we’re sick, the economy is sick. If the planet is sick, we can’t see a functioning economy.” Transform highlights the need to rethink our global economy and develop beyond where we left off before Covid-19, to prioritize the environment and social justice as well as economic prosperity. “We see proof points that society is moving towards this Transform trajectory,” Uren says.

Changing the conversation:

“If nature was a bank, it would have been bailed out a long time ago,” Uren says. If society is going to reach anything close to the Transform scenario, we’re going to have to change the language around success and development.

The good news is that it’s happening. “The amount of money flowing to ESG (environmental, social and governance) funds is multiplying,” Uren says. “The investment community is waking up to the value at risk posed by the climate emergency.”

The tricky thing is that all four scenarios could be unfolding simultaneously around the world, she explains. “The more you can take actions consistent with the future that you want, the greater the chance of that version of the future emerging. Self-fulfilling and self-defeating promises are real.”

Changing people’s ideology and business priorities is no easy task. “A lot of what we do is trying to persuade senior decision-makers that the current economic construct is flawed. We try to persuade brands to embrace different metrics and routes to value creation,” Forum For The Future’s CEO says.

Purpose At Work: Sally Uren, CEO ‘Forum For The Future’ On How We Transform Our Future
Purpose At Work: Sally Uren, CEO ‘Forum For The Future’ On How We Transform Our Future PHOTO PROVIDED BY FORUM OF THE FUTURE
Actions we can take:

We all have a role to play in cultivating the future we collectively need. Here are specific actions people and organizations across the spectrum can take to move the needle towards a prosperous, sustainable, and equitable future.

Entrepreneurs: “Have a vision about what success looks like. Focus not only on financial metrics but how you’re contributing to dealing with some of these big challenges?” Sally says. With renewable energy prices decreasing and sustainable supply chain options increasingly available, “It’s never been easier because protecting the environment can save us money,” she says.

Investors: Money talks. “Investors need to ensure that capital is flowing into the industries of the future, not the interests of yesterday,” Sally says. Divestment and ESG funds are indicators that the investment community is shifting.

Philanthropists: While charity is important, we need to practice conscious giving. “Philanthropy needs to stop investing billions in plaster solutions and putting all of their money on disaster relief,” Uren says. “It’s important but while that happens, we’re not injecting that risk tolerance into solving these big challenges. Philanthropic organizations need to take a deep look at the root cause of the problem they’re trying to solve.”

Employees: If the company’s purpose is unclear, ask leadership to clarify it. In addition to discussing purpose with your brand, Uren recommends discussing how your pension fund is being managed. “Are your fund managers investing in fossil fuel industries?” Sally says. By requesting transparency from your employer you can help move the needle. “The return you’ll get from a pension fund that’s invested into renewable and low carbon technology will do better in the future. That’s the pathway to value creation over the next decade,” she says.

Consumers: As a consumer, you can ask questions like, “Do they have science-based climate targets? Where and how are these products made?” Sally suggests. With certification programs and industry watchdogs on the rise, more and more brands are getting certifications. While not perfect, these certifications can be a great tool to assess a company’s stance in regards to things like fair trade, organic, and other environmental indicators.

Policymakers: “We need governments to create policies and frameworks that enable the transition to a fair and carbon-free society,” Uren says. The Biden Administration’s re-entry into the Paris Climate Agreement and enabling policy frameworks will hopefully lay the infrastructure for sustainable growth.

Civil society: “Civil society needs to be more active in saying, ‘This isn’t good enough,’” Uren suggests. “They need to rally businesses, governments, and others to do more.”

Purposeful collaborations:

It is the combined input of all stakeholders that will bring forth the future we want to see. Brands must collaborate with suppliers and each other to weave sustainability throughout the value chain.

“Many large companies are dependent on global supply chains they don’t have full control over,” Uren says. “Brands across sectors share these supply chains and they’re all at risk at the moment. To ensure resilience and access to supply, you need to collaborate. If you want to ensure continued access to secure supply, you’re often going to have to work with your competitors”

Not all competitors want to invest in sustainability innovation. “You need one or two to come with you,” Uren says. “Change happens because pioneers are willing to push the boundary.”

Some excellent examples of brands leading the way when it comes to collaboration around sustainability are Interface, Patagonia, Unilever, and Amazon. “Interface launched a carbon-negative carpet, sequestering carbon out of the atmosphere with each tile made. I love what Patagonia is doing in terms of its partnerships with smallholder cotton farmers, enabling them to convert from conventional to organic cotton production in a way that they don’t lose money,” Uren says. “Unilever launched a $1 billion nature and environment fund just to decarbonize supply chains. Amazon’s got a $2 billion climate pledge.” Increased funds and momentum towards regenerative systems are building momentum with companies both large and small.

Is it enough?

Despite global momentum from businesses and initiatives like the Sustainable Development Goals, we aren’t seeing the progress we need to limit irreversible environmental impacts. “We need to reconfigure the goals of the system we rely on,” Uren says. “Take our food system for example. It’s working well to the current goals of supplying cheap food delivered in large volumes in a way that doesn’t look out for farmer livelihoods or long-term environmental health. We need to restate the goal of the food system from extracting value to creating value.”

Transformation requires dedication and the willingness to break patterns. “We haven’t made enough progress. We’ve focused more on incremental change because it’s easier. We’ve been locking in existing unsustainable practices and we’ve lacked imagination required to step into that future in the way that we should,” Uren says.

Lessons from Sally Uren on how to Lead With We:

“Appealing to consumers as individuals and appealing to values is something that every brand can do more. Design your communication at a human level.”
“Shift your internal dialogue from ‘Whatever I do won’t make a difference,’ to ‘I have extraordinary power and agency as an individual. Optimism does create change.”
“Have a vision of what it is you’re trying to do. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t know how to get there. If in your efforts to change things, people end up shouting at you and you’re experiencing negative energy, bank it. It means you’re actually close to doing something special. Don’t be disheartened by it, dust yourself off and keep going.”
“Hold onto the potential, not the uncertainty.”